I have nothing against people who chose Human Resource as a profession. They are entitled to their choices. However what bothers me is first, the existence of such a department in the first place and second, the holier than thou attitude shown by most of the HR ‘professionals’. If the role of the HR is limited to enhancing the employee experience, I would be OK with it. Obviously we need something like an event management group within every organization and HR fits the bill here. But extending this role to recruitment and rewards are absolutely senseless according to me. I am saying this purely in the context of technology companies – software development / electronics in particular.
The role of HRD
HR department started out traditionally as a “broker” between employee and management – nothing more. The management could not really talk to each employee, so there is a need for a notice board – the HR department. But it feels awkward when a HR ‘professional’ tries his best to take the reins of the career of the employees. They neither have the skill required for the business, nor the skill required to judge the employees based on their skillset. Career can be best decided by the employee’s manager or a person senior to their manager. Judging a bad behavior is not a rocket science. Any person who has interacted with a lot of people could judge a person better during recruitment. Recruitment is a specialized job and it requires extraordinary technical skill apart from an intense precision in judging a person – which is best handled by a council of star developers and not HR professionals.
Who could be HR?
HR should be an additional role often played by a group of technically equipped top ranking star employees whose passion happens to be interacting with people. Such HR council would make more sense than a separate HR department. These council members could be a group of stars who could take it up apart from their routine work. Or the council members could be a group of top ranking managers who are more considerate of the goals of their employees. But a typical HR “professional” does not fit anywhere. And hence they need to be out of recruitment (lack of technical excellence to judge a person technically) and rewards (lack of business vision) but instead focus on event management, communication and improving employee experience.
Separate HR department is unnecessary
I have interacted with a large number of HR ‘professionals’ in at least three countries. There is a remarkable similarity here. Most of them confessed that they took this profession as they felt there would not be much work to do when compared to any other department. Most of them felt that there are no huge responsibilities associated with HR which would make them feel safer. Two thirds of them mentioned that they suck at development / coding / frontline and HR is their safe bait. It is only a tiny fraction of them who had taken up the job due to an inherent interest in interacting with people and learning about their psychology – a mandatory requirement for HR ‘professionals’. This unfortunately is the real picture.
Technology organizations are not exactly psychiatric centers. You do not need a separate department to keep learning about people’s psychology. I don’t see any meaningful role a HR ‘professional’ could play in a technology Company. Any large technology Company which overemphasizes the need for an HR department and undermines their technical assets, often ranks much lower in innovation. And innovation is the key to sustenance of a majority of technology companies which is possible only when the Company is technically inclined. Several huge and stagnant companies which values process over people usually give too much of unnecessary importance to these HR ‘professionals’ over engineers. And due to such practices, these stagnant companies had declining revenues to such an extent that it required the government to bail them out.
Most of the HR ‘professionals’, in order to prove and justify their meaningless existence in an organization, tend to pretend as though they are the boss. They assume that they are very powerful in an organization while they actually are an object of ridicule. They pretend to themselves that they are the fulcrum of an organization – what they do not realize is that a business can function very efficiently without a dedicated HR team. Until the business is in rough seas, the management does not really bother about the measly role of an HR personnel. The HR personnel take full advantage of this fact and tries to involve themselves in various management events even if they are not invited. It would be often intimidating to see an HR behave as if they are the ones who pay your salary while in reality they are just another employee who is getting paid too without any useful work and responsibility. They exhibit such strange behavior to hide their guilt about them lacking the capacity to play a meaningful role in contributing to the growth of a Company.
Companies are beginning to realize
I had worked in a huge multinational who sells wide ranging products. This Company is a key factor in economic ranking of a country. During the 2007-2009 financial meltdown, companies were cutting cost and laying off people. The HR department in this Company was busy preparing a list of “low performers” who were to be warned and later fired. When this list was presented to the management, the board decided to downsize the HR department instead (and other similar roles like ‘Process / Methodology Auditors’)- saving much more cost than they had originally intended. A large section of HR professionals were either redeployed or fired. The list of low performers were then reviewed and those people were re-trained. This was an awesome decision which reinforces the company’s commitment to technology. The Company emerged successful and still is a huge force.
HR does not create rules – the management does. HR cannot decide – the management does. And usually there are separate departments for finance and communications. A HR ‘professional’ typically cannot understand finance nor technology. And that ‘professional’ would suck at recruitment and rewards for the simple reason that he cannot understand the quantum of contribution an employee could make / would have made. HR cannot contribute to the bottom line either. So if recruitment and rewards are also taken out from that role (which should be separate from HR), a HR ‘professional’ does not have any work to do. Then what is the real use of a HR department ? And what is there that makes them feel they are very important ? Companies like Skybean and several other startups do not have a separate HR department. It is not just for saving cost. It makes a whole lot of business sense not to have a separate HR department. If you do need it (eg., for compliance sake), consider outsourcing HR.